Darjeeling Express started out life as a supper club in lawyer-turned-chef Asma Khan’s Kensington home, and this Kingly Court restaurant is its first permanent spot. The small plates draw on her Calcutta childhood: home-style food, cooked from family recipes.
Most of the beautifully balanced small plates are excellent. Let’s start with the very best: Indo-Chinese chilli garlic prawns. Luxuriously buttery, smoky and spiced with long, thin chillies; I’ve thought about these prawns more than I should like to admit since eating them.
Also lovely were fiery mutton cakes cut through with a delicate layer of mint and yoghurt. The mains, sadly, were less impressive. Both venison kofta and goat curry failed in the same way, with bland (albeit good quality) meat that hadn’t had a chance to absorb the flavours of the beautiful sauces.
One other disappointment was the space itself. Much is made on the website about the homeliness of the ethos – the kitchen is staffed by an all-women team, and a portion of the proceeds go towards promoting female equality in Darjeeling. But the bright, high-ceilinged room is a little stark. Perhaps Darjeeling Express just needs more time to bed in. A bit like that curry, which I knew would be amazing after a night in the fridge.